Fri | Jan 22, 2021

Motivated to achieving it all, despite odds

Published:Monday | November 5, 2018 | 12:00 AM
Mr Motivator and his wife Sandra, lounging in their home at H'Evans Scent.
Derrick Evans, also known as the popular exercise instructor, Mr Motivator.
Mr Motivator joining guests on one of the Zip Line at H'Evans Scent.
Mr Motivator leading one of the team building sessions at H'Evans Scent.
Aerial view of the entire property of H'Evans Scent including the Main House and Apartment Block.

You may recognise him as Mr Motivator, the fitness guru who is known worldwide for his fun routines and even more memorable outfits of colourful unitards and 'Bum Bags,' but Derrick Evans was not always the successful and popular television personality that he is today.

Born in 1952 in Manchester, Jamaica, this UK legend was given away by his mother when only three months old, but his journey is full of lows and highs that serves as an example that "the price of success is perseverance".

Now, he is a highly sought-after motivational speaker, health and wellness expert, and entrepreneur. Along with his media, motivational and fitness endeavours, Evans owns and operates H'Evans Scent Adventure Park and Resort, an eco-tourism getaway that is home to Jamaica's first zip line, giant swing and paintball pitch. After 15 years of operation, he has decided to give away this property and business to one lucky person who, by simply buying a Golden Ticket online, will become the new owner!

To find out more, we had to sit down with Mr Motivator to catch a glimpse of the man behind the unitards and find out what would spark such a radical act of generosity.

As was the case for many men of his days Evans' adoptive father migrated to England in the hope that it would bring better times. At age 10, Evans and his family joined him.

"Most Jamaicans had heard, and many believed the statement, 'the streets of England are paved with gold'. I didn't want to leave Jamaica, though. The year was 1962 and our flight was scheduled for four days before Independence Day celebrations."

Evans soon found himself in a routine with his life in the UK. As with most young boys, school didn't hold much allure, and for someone who would later become known for fitness, he was not very interested in sports, either.

"My love for physical education was minimal; I was just ordinary at sports. I couldn't quite grasp the logic of sports in winter. Indoor sports made better sense and I developed a love for basketball, and this got me on the school team."

Evans never got the opportunity to represent his school for sports. When it came to education and qualifications, he left for his first of many jobs before taking the CSE exams. He then went on to various unfulfilling office jobs and along the way, at age 20, encountered one of his greatest inspirations in the form of his daughter, Carolyne. Evans states that one of the major turning points in his life was when he was asked to take over caring for Carolyne. Overnight, he became a single father with greater responsibility than before.

"My ex mother-in-law begged to keep Carolyne, but I remembered that I had been given away and I knew immediately, without hesitation, that I had to be there for her. There would be some major changes to my young life. I would need to learn on the job to be father, mother, breadwinner, and a stable and caring person for a young, impressionable person. My daughter would need me in a way that I had never been needed before."

Evans put his heart and soul into caring for his daughter - even fighting for custody when his ex returned months later intending to take Carolyne back. "Family is the most important thing we have, and we must never take anyone for granted. Carolyne will always have a special place in my heart - we went through so many things together."

Whether he was single or in a relationship, Derrick has always prioritised family - eager to take on more challenges and more job opportunities as the breadwinner of the house. "Although I was making money, it was not my driving force. Job satisfaction was paramount. I was looking for more challenges and therefore tried a number of different things. I am of the opinion that you need more than one iron in the fire, so that when one particular thing is not working, something else will be in demand."

Soon enough he met up on the right challenge that put him on the path to where he is today. "Running a business did not allow me the time to engage in physical activity as I used to. The result was that I started to put on weight - so I joined the local leisure centre. One evening, I arrived to do a round of squash but ran into a large group of women heading to a class I learned was called Pop Mobility."

The rest, as they say is history. Evans watched, transfixed, as a lady from a stage led a large group of women and a few men through a high-energy workout to pop music. He loved the atmosphere and sure enough, by next week, he was among those in the crowd in his shorts and leg warmers at the back observing, taking part, and learning all the moves. Evans soon started hosting his own sessions in a church hall and the demand for his type of class began to grow in popularity. Before he knew it he was been asked to set up classes elsewhere, then the British Heart Foundation wanted him to do a roadshow visiting 20 cities across the UK, providing talks, about the importance of exercise.

As a result, his fitness sessions take on a new meaning. Evans is not only concerned with the right moves or songs, but he became passionate about communicating positivity and encourage everyone he meets to value every moment of their lives.

Then, in 1989, Derrick found a love greater than motivational exercise in his soon to be life partner, Sandra Palmer. "Palmer is great. She has been the strength behind all that I do, and together we have shared so much. She has always been my right arm and I do not wish to ever imagine life without her. In our 29 years together, we have never even had an argument! We have travelled the world and been together every step of the way, every life decision that we make has been done together, so it has been easy.

It was 20 years ago, that Derrick and Sandra began their search for the perfect place in his homeland to retire, and found it in the hills of St Ann. The 28-acre property, started out as just their home, but evolved into H'Evans Scent Adventure Park.

"When we found this property, I thought it would be the perfect place for our retirement home. It was just woodland, nothing else was around and when I looked at all the space we had, I said to Sandra, that the demand for me doing team building sessions in England was great. Why not bring that to Jamaica?"

The property now hosts four Zip Lines, including one of the longest in Jamaica at 1200 feet, that showcase the breathtaking views of St Ann, along with multiple paintball pitches and other attractions.

After remaining innovative and introducing new attractions to the island, Evans is once again stepping out as a trendsetter with this unconventional way to sell his property, for US$30.

"We're not young anymore and two years ago, our youngest daughter, Abigail, was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. It took the oxygen out of the room for us. We started thinking that there was no reason to hang on to this property with all the demands on our lives. We proved that we could do it and one of the main purposes for all that we had was for our family to enjoy it. Now that our daughter needed us, we knew we had to give it up. But not just give it up, give it to someone whose life it would change."

Mr Motivator is always spreading his love and light, and when he decided to sell his home, he took the same approach. As a black man growing up in the UK, Evans never experienced or benefited from a handout. Facing racism from every avenue, he had to work hard to become the success he is today and is now passionate about giving people the help he never received.

"This campaign is about more than just giving away my home. I want to help someone. I want to remind the world that dreams do come true. And you must keep going, no matter how hopeless things may seem. This is just the beginning for someone out there and the best for me and my family is still yet to come."